What roles do people play in plant operations?


Enter a comma separated list of user names.
Tim Schütz's picture
June 7, 2022

In the 1990s, a shift supervisor and wastewater manager at Formosa Plastics, Dale Jurasek, found himself suffering from sores that no doctor in Calhoun County could explain. Only months later, after several visits to a regional medical center associated with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, did he learn that the reasons were chemicals he was exposed to at the Formosa plant where he worked, causing irreparable damage to his nervous system. Jurasek’s experience exhibits what can be called divisible health care, which runs in a tangled parallel with divisible governance. It is an experience painfully familiar to many people with toxic exposures: seeking health care itself becomes toxic because established health systems can’t register the strange, sometimes highly individualized, effects of toxic harms (Morgan and Fortun; Fortun 2011).

Angry that Formosa harmed his health and likely that of many other workers, Jurasek then contacted the US EPA and FBI as a whistleblower, providing undercover information about worker safety and failed environmental protections at the Calhoun County Formosa plant (Gibbons 2019). After several years of work on the case, however, the FBI dropped it. Jurasek speculates that this was because the FBI’s attention was diverted by a big case against Koch Industries. Again, capacity to govern environmental health was inadequate. 

Jursaek stayed angry. He also learned about Diane Wilson, and in 2008 reached out for a meeting – at a meeting place out of town so they wouldn’t be recognized by neighbors. The result was a coalition between Formosa plant workers and a local shrimp fisher that has had staying power, bringing different perspectives on Formosas together. 

In 2017, Diane Wilson, Dale Jurasek, and Ronnie Hamrick (another former wastewater manager) – organized as the Calhoun County Waterkeepers – filed a landmark citizens lawsuit against Formosa, bringing literally buckets of evidence forward, supporting allegations of rampant and illegal discharge of plastic pellets and other pollutants into Lavaca Bay from Formosa’s Calhoun County plant. The case was led by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which describes the outcome as the largest settlement of a Clean Water Act suit filed by private individuals (Berti Suman & Schade 2021).